1973 Chevrolet Camaro: An American Let Free In The French Countryside. This week take a lap through the French countryside in Gabriel Henaut’s 1973 Chevrolet Camaro.
Gabriel grew up under an influential father who also happened to be a mechanic. You know this story; with the seed planted early on in his life, cars were a point of passion for a young boy, and that hasn’t changed since. But like every tale told often, there’s a reason for that. When it results in cars like Gabriel’s Camaro emigrating to France, when the journey and the result are equally intriguing, these are the examples of whatever the Hero’s Journey is for the world of cars that are worth telling.
Growing up, his father taught him how to wrench and shared the tricks that come with experience, but more importantly, he encouraged Gabriel to adopt the do-it-yourself mindset. Getting a license and driving on his own began a longtime love affair with Mk1 Volkswagens, and Gabriel refreshed and restored several early Golfs, but after spending a good deal of time around, in, under, and on the iconic four-banger hot-hatches, he desired something different. Something unique thundering around in France. Maybe something American?
They say forbidden fruit is the sweetest, and a plump V8 from Detroit is about as foreign as it gets in northwestern French. “V8s were just fantasy,” Gabriel says with a small smirk, “You think it’s impossible, until one day you ask yourself, ‘Why not?’ ” So, after colluding with a friend to take a trip to the United States, the search for a machine to quench his thirst for torque was underway in full. In 2013 they flew to Los Angeles to start poking around for something rust-free, but couldn’t pass up the chance to visit Las Vegas while on the West Coast.
On the way out of the city, they get lost in the desert’s stretches of deserted roads for much longer than anyone would want to (which to be fair is not very long), and barely make it to a petrol station before running out of fuel. After topping off the tank again in Victorville, his friend noticed a Nova for sale parked just off the road. Not his ideal choice, Gabriel was about to walk away when a man walked over to ask him if he was looking to buy something. The man’s name was Roberto, and Roberto happened to have a pretty nicely stuffed garage.
“Follow me,” Roberto said, luring the traveling friends into the collection. “We entered a shed full of dismantled cars.” And though covered up, Gabriel quickly recognized a certain shape under its dusty cloak. Roberto removed the tarp to reveal a 1973 Chevrolet Camaro. “My interest was piqued,” Gabriel admits, “I got all excited; I loved that car.”
After fiddling with the ignition briefly, Roberto woke the split-bumper beast. Despite the accumulated dirt, a thorough inspection of the car proved it to be very clean and complete. A deal was struck, and Gabriel was the smitten new owner of some vintage American iron.
But the car still had to find its way back to France. “The nice thing about this story is that I indulged myself when I discovered the car, but also when I rediscovered it a few months later when the vehicle arrived home,” Gabriel explains, “I had forgotten a lot of things: the smell of it, the sound it makes, details that had been erased with time.”
By the time the car arrived home, and after the requisite time just sitting inside it again and reacquainting, Gabriel was shocked at how clean it really was, even on top of his initial surprise at its good condition. The process was well worth the risk, as he explains, “it gave me the chance to have unique experiences that I will never forget.”